UPDATE as of 5 June, 11:00am: By 11am, 3 of the 4 chicks had fledged. One was flying so well he landed on the globe on top of Carnegie Museum.
UPDATE as of 6 June, 5:00am: Yesterday morning we definitely saw 2 fledged chicks but never 3 at the same time. We could not find the 3rd chick so we assumed it had flown. However, two chicks slept at the nest last night while two (fledged) chicks slept elsewhere. I am revising my statement: As of 5 June, 2 of 4 chicks have fledged. Fledge watch today will be HOT. Bring water.
This morning at 6:10am there were two chicks at the nest but neither was visible on the streaming camera. One chick had climbed the exit ramp under the snapshot camera. The other was perched on the nestbox roof, talons and tip of the tail visible. See photo at top.
How do you know if a peregrine chick has flown? Is that flying peregrine a chick or an adult? Here are some tips on what to look for.
1. Count heads to figure out if any have flown. You’ll have to be onsite to do this.
Count the peregrine chicks perched at the nest via falconcam and at the launch zone. If you count all of them they probably haven’t flown yet. If some are missing …
If some chicks are missing, walk around to find them using the clues below. Each site is different. At Pitt, walk around the Cathedral of Learning.
2. Look for the parents: What are they looking at?
When a chick has newly flown one of the parents will perch near it and stare at it. At this early stage of flight the chick is vulnerable. The parent is guarding it.
3. Listen for peregrine “whining.”
When a young peregrine is hungry he whines loudly to get attention. A fledgling away from the nest will call very loudly saying, “I’m over here! Bring food!!” This is not a distress signal. It is “teenage” whining.
4. Watch and listen for upset songbirds warning of a predator.
Songbirds will raise the alarm when they see a young peregrine perched nearby. Most will make alarm calls, a few may dive-bomb to drive it away. American robins are the loudest and most likely to be nearby. Here’s a robin alarm call.
5. Difference in appearance in flight: Juveniles have a pale tip on the tail.
The colors brown (juvenile) vs. gray (adult) are hard to tell at a backlit distance. However in June juveniles have fresh tail feathers while adults do not. Fresh tail feathers in both plumages have pale tips that glow when sunlight shines through them. If you see an obviously pale tail tip, chances are you’re looking at a juvenile.
Here’s a juvenile peregrine at Pitt in 2012.
Adults have worn off the tips of their tails by dragging them on the nest gravel for the past four months.
5. Difference in flight behavior: In the first few days of flight juveniles flap a lotand will not stoop. They also land carefully, shown below.
As they get better at flying the juveniles flap less and land more confidently. However, it takes some weeks for them to master the stoop. In the first week of flight any peregrine flying like this (below) has to be an adult.
As of yesterday afternoon, three of the four Pitt peregrine chicks had walked off camera. At 4pm I counted heads from Schenley Plaza using my scope and cellphone (viewing live snapshots of the nest). 3 on the nestrail + 1 in the nest = no one was in the gully under the nest, and no one had flown.
Later they flap-walked along the railing. Here’s one in the middle.
Morela watched from the lightning rod.
How do I know it’s Morela? For the past week or two she’s had a feather sticking out on her right shoulder. It may have been dinged in an aerial battle similar to E2’s wing gap in May 2012. Morela will eventually molt out the bent feather but in the meantime it’ll be easy to identify her at Fledge Watch.
When you come to Schenley Plaza to see the peregrine chicks, here’s where to look at the Cathedral of Learning.
The tall pole on top of the building is a lightning rod with four triangular antennas. If there’s a dot on one of the antennas it’s a peregrine.
The nestrail is the low wall with 5 cutouts. Chicks flap-walk on top of the nestrail and may flatten themselves to nap (then they’re hard to see). Look on top of the nestrail and inside the cutouts for peregrine chicks.
What happens next?
There’s usually a two day gap between first chick on the nestrail (31 May) and first flight. That means first flight could be today, 2 June.
It’s All Peregrines All The Time with news from three other peregrine nests in the Pittsburgh area.
Allegheny River, Tarentum Bridge:
The chicks at the Tarentum Bridge are more advanced (older) than any other nest we’ve been monitoring, close to a week older than the Pitt peregrines. When Dave Brooke stopped by to see them on Sunday 30 May he found only two of three. His photo above is a screenshot from the video he mentions in email below. See Dave’s video here.
I only saw 2 young ones today. Perhaps the other fledged. You can’t hear it in this video, but the reason they are looking up is one of their parents was flying overhead calling.
— email from Dave Brooke, 30 May 2021
Monongahela Watershed: Westinghouse Bridge
Dana Nesiti stopped by the Westinghouse Bridge on Friday 28 May and saw four members of the peregrine family. The adults flew together and perched on the bridge, then two youngsters peeked out of the nest area. The chicks appear to be close in age to the Pitt peregrines.
On Sunday afternoon 30 May four of us met on Third Avenue to view the Downtown peregrine family. Jeff Cieslak and his wife arrived from Mt. Washington where Jeff photographed three chicks and one adult during a feeding. John English and I could hear that feeding but saw nothing.
Eventually I noticed one adult on the gargoyle at Lawrence Hall (photo above)) and Jeff’s wife saw the second one on a window ledge. The windowsill peregrine appears to be Dori.
At Pitt the young peregrines are so restless that one walked off the nest — and back again — yesterday afternoon. Visit Schenley Plaza any time this week to see them fledge. I’ll be there for Fledge Watch on June 2, 4, 6, 11:30a-1:00p. The watch is weather-dependent. If it’s pouring or thundering the Watch will be canceled.
Meanwhile, there are seven other peregrine sites in southwestern Pennsylvania at least four of which are active. Have you checked them out? Leave a comment if you have news.
Monongahela River: Speers Railroad Bridge, Washington County
Ohio River: McKees Rocks Bridge, Allegheny County
Ohio River: Neville Island I-79 Bridge, NO PEREGRINES DUE TO CONSTRUCTION
Ohio River: Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge, Beaver County, NO PEREGRINES?
Ohio River: Monaca Railroad Bridge, Beaver County
Allegheny River: 62nd Street to Aspinwall Railroad Bridge, NO PEREGRINES?
Allegheny River: Rt 422 Graff Bridge Kittanning, Armstrong County
In one week from 23 to 30 May 2021 the Pitt peregrine chicks changed a lot. Having hatched on 25 April 2021 (the fourth hatched a day later), they turned five weeks old.
On Sunday 23 May 2021 most were 28 days old, the fourth was 27 days. Notice that they were fluffy white with a few patches of brown feathers. Only one had a brown chest with downy fluffs.
The video below shows them resting during the heat of the day and lining up in an orderly fashion for each feeding. They are so well behaved that Ecco stays with them and sunbathes. It was hot — 87 degrees F in the shade!
On Sunday 30 May, they were 35 (and 34) days old and far more rambunctious! On the previous morning a chick snatched breakfast from Ecco’s beak and mantled over her private feast. Well, they’re old enough to feed themselves so that was the end of the lineup. Yesterday their parents just dropped the food and ran.
When a parent perched above them, the chicks tried to get as close as possible on the green perch or the side of the box.
When they see their parents they crowd and shout and flap their wings.
One day soon all this restless activity will lead to first flight. Before that happens they will ledge walk up to the nest rail and disappear from camera view. Here’s a digiscope view of the nestrail with one of the adults on it.
Yesterday the Pitt peregrine chicks passed a big milestone on their way to first flight. Two times on Thursday, at 1:35p and 2:45p, one of the chicks flapped up to the green perch. Ledge walking has begun.
Before peregrine chicks have flight feathers the young are hard wired not to leave the nest for a step off the cliff means certain death.
After they have flight feathers the chicks prepare to leave the nest by flapping their new wings, walking around the ledge and flap-running across the surface. This leads to their first big milestone: the first step off the nest. At Pitt that first step is the green perch.
At 1:35pm a chick flapped his way up to the green perch and watched the sky intently, as shown in the video below. Notice the feather pattern on this chick’s chest. I think he is a different bird than the second ledge-walker.
An hour later another chick hopped up to the green perch.
Again notice the feather pattern on his chest. Is he the same bird as the first ledge walker? I don’t think so.
Eventually all four chicks will ledge walk, though one or two are clearly ahead of the others. Over the weekend one or more will ledge walk out of camera view. Don’t panic if you can’t find all four. The early birds are making their way to the nest rail where they will make their first flight.
Thanks to photos by Jeff Cieslak and Lori Maggio we have news of the adult peregrines and chicks at the Third Avenue nest in Downtown Pittsburgh.
Dori is (probably) the resident female. Lori photographed a pinkish USFW right leg band on one of the adults on 23 May, an unusual color that’s the same as Dori’s. Dori hatched in Akron, Ohio in 2007 and has nested in Downtown Pittsburgh since 2010. She is 14 years old.
Here’s a two year old photo of Dori showing her face, chest and leg bands.
Adult male has a silver USFW right leg band. Lori’s photos on 23 May give us several views of the resident male. The photos at top and below show him facing forward.
Then he turned and showed his silver right leg band.
Last year the new resident male had a silver right leg band as shown in Lori’s photo on 28 June 2020. (Dori’s previous mate, Louie, died in the summer of 2019.)
Considering Dori’s lightly spotted breast these face-shots by Jeff Cieslak on 25 May are probably the resident male.
At least 3 chicks in the nest. Viewing the nest from Mt. Washington, Jeff and Lori’s photos indicate there are at least three chicks in the nest. Jeff’s slideshow on 14 May make it easy to count white chicks in the lower opening.
Lori’s image from 23 May, below, confirms that count. Notice three white blobs with the short dark tails. I think they are slightly younger than the Pitt nestlings because they are whiter than the Pitt chicks were on 23 May. I expect them to fledge some time between June 1 and June 10.
Since Third Avenue is partially blocked by construction, I am not going to schedule a formal Downtown Fledge Watch. However, I encourage everyone to stop by Third Avenue to see the adults and eventually chicks at the edge of the ledge.
If you take photos, please let me know in a comment and we’ll swap addresses. Maybe your photo will be the one to identify the adults!
If you’ve been putting off a trip to Tarentum to see the peregrines don’t wait any longer. This is the week to watch!
Thanks to Dave Brooke’s photos earlier this month we learned the chicks were 18-20 days old on 9 May so they must have hatched 19-21 April and are due to fledge around 29 May. The best time to watch peregrines is before the young fly. That’s this week through Memorial Day.
The Tarentum chicks were active outside the nest last weekend, walking on the pier and testing their wings. They begged loudly when their parents arrived, a sound that’s hard to miss from the Tarentum boat ramp.
Lynn Mamros was on hand for a feeding. The chicks loafed on the pier, at top, then rushed their mother to get a share of dinner, a bird with long legs. (Peregrines eat birds.)
Visit the Tarentum boat launch or the sidewalk on 1st Avenue to watch the youngsters before they fly. Click here for a map.
p.s. Lynn Mamros reminded me that the Tarentum Bridge will close for construction on 9 June. This closure will not affect the young peregrines. They will have left the pier long ago and will not be dependent on it by then.
Peregrine watchers were thrilled last year when a pair of peregrines established a nest at a new site in rural Bradford County, PA. Observers could tell the male was banded but no one could read his bands until Teri Franzen captured a photo last week.
Art McMorris, Peregrine Coordinator at the PA Game Commission (PGC), confirmed that Black/Green 58/AP hatched at the Third Avenue nest site in Downtown Pittsburgh in 2018 in one of the most unusual nesting years we’ve ever seen in Allegheny County.
When Dori and Louie began to nest in the spring of 2018, the building below their nest was being renovated to become Keystone Flats. At first the work was indoors but when it moved outside the workers would need a crane too close to the nest.
The developer believed he could not wait 20-30 days for the young to fledge so he got a takings permit from US Fish and Wildlife who delegated the job to the PA Game Commission (PGC). PGC removed the chicks on 8 May 2018, took them to Humane Animal Rescue and banded them. (Read the story here.)
It was a real surprise to discover that this city-born peregrine chose to nest in the country. During Pennsylvania’s peregrine recovery program many young peregrines were released at cliff sites but they usually ignored their rural beginnings and chose to nest on man-made structures in towns and cities. 58/AP came from an urban site and chose the country.
p.s. Because 58/AP and his parents were banded we know his genealogy. He’s the son of Downtown peregrines Dori (2007-?present) and Louie (2003-2019) and the grandson of Erie (1998-2007) and Dorothy (1999-2015) at the University of Pittsburgh. Dorothy was the matriarch who fledged 43 young at the Cathedral of Learning.
(photos by Teri Franzen and Doug Cunzolo, map from Wikimedia Commons)